Measuring Up

English just tried to show NBA teams his essence during draft process

Kim English
Kim English remembers what he was going through a year ago, on the eve of the NBA draft combine.
Dan Lippitt (NBAE/Getty)
A year ago, Kim English and his class of 2012 draft mates were in the shoes – some of them stuffed with extra-thick socks to pad height – of the hopefuls who’ll be filing from one hotel conference room to the next and station to station for testing and measurements this week at Chicago’s Harrison Street Athletics Facility.

Many approach the NBA draft combine as a job interview, and English did to a degree, as well. But he went confident that showing what he was – both on the court and in conversations with the NBA executives who ultimately would decide his fate – would be enough to sell his case. He did no exceptional preparation, either to dazzle scouts with his athleticism or executives with his interpersonal skills.

“The team staff and front office know what you can do,” he said. “They bring you in, they know what you can do. They’ve watched you to a crazy extent. Four years of them watching. So I wasn’t going to come in here and try to reinvent myself. I was just going to play hard and make shots and show them what I was going to do in the league.”

Some prospects spend the time between the end of their college seasons and the draft working out under trainers far away from campus, going to training centers in Los Angeles, Arizona or Florida. English eschewed all of that, choosing to stay in school – he earned his degree from Missouri last spring – and work out under the supervision of Bryan Tibaldi.

Tibaldi has Michigan roots, walking on at Michigan State from Traverse City West High, then serving as a grad assistant under Tom Izzo for two years before landing a video job with the Chicago Bulls. He came to Mizzou from the Bulls and brought along a manual for predraft workouts the Bulls conduct for college prospects. English followed that discipline throughout April as he prepared for May and June NBA workouts last spring.

“We did that workout every single day for a month and when it was time to go on the circuit, I was pretty confident I knew what was going to be asked of me in these workouts,” said English, who returned to Auburn Hills this week from Missouri. “Shooting, conditioning, competition. That’s what the workouts were. Just go in there with your blinders on and compete.”

English was already practiced at the art of the interview before Chicago, sitting down with several teams at the Portsmouth Invitational and in the individual workouts he’d already logged before Chicago. Because the combine this year is earlier than normal – before the lottery, most unusually – it’s unlikely many of the draft combine participants this year have had any individual workouts yet. In all, English participated in 19 workouts for 18 NBA teams.

The interviews eventually became redundant, English admitted, but he was cognizant that any one of them could be enough to throw a GM off of his scent – or, on the other hand, win him a draft position.

“Your body of work – who you are as a person, who you are as a player – is ultimately what’s going to get you drafted,” he said. “You could be a great player, but if you don’t fit into the style of play, these GMs have to look at a guy and say, ‘Can he handle not playing 20 straight games?’

“Inside of you, I hate it with all my might that I’m not playing. I hate it as much as you can hate it. I hate losing 52 games. It drives me crazy, but will I still come to work early every single day? Will I stay late every day and shoot? Will I always play one on one? Will I still be a great teammate, cheer on guys? That’s the things that GMs and assistant GMs and scouts have to decipher. You could be a great player, but there could be two guys greater in front of you. There’s a lot more than just basketball.”

English, who will conduct five two-day basketball camps in cities across Missouri over the summer, didn’t allow himself to get stressed out by the on-court testing and drills conducted over two days at the Chicago athletic facility, either.

“I didn’t really care about that,” he said. “Whatever the numbers are, they care about what you do on the basketball court. I always say the coaches are watching what you do on the court. They aren’t over there watching the agility tests. They read ’em. They see the numbers and some things may jump out at you, like a vertical leap or a standing reach. But they’re watching you with a ball, not hitting a stick (to test vertical leap).”

He also was happy with his measurement, which came in at 6-foot-4½ without shoes, three-fourths of an inch better than his measurement at Portsmouth. He was 6-foot-5¾ in shoes at Chicago.

“Some guys will try to make themselves taller,” he said. “Chicago was good. The Portsmouth measurements were wrong – it was glaring. I didn’t care. But some guys had thick socks in their shoes. It was funny.”

The Pistons entire front office staff, including Joe Dumars, assistant general manager George David and the scouting staff, began arriving in Chicago Tuesday night and they’ll be here through the weekend as the draft process shifts into a higher gear.

I’ll have updates throughout Thursday and Friday on Twitter and on True Blue Pistons.